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Judge Rules That Maine Will Vote On Legalization In 2016

A superior court justice has ruled that Maine should get a chance to vote on legalizing recreational marijuana use on Election Day this November. That decision overrules the decision of state legislators to throw out the Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol (CRMLA)'s ballot initiative due to a technicality. To get on the ballot, CRMLA had to gather 61,123 signatures. Although the group turned in over 99,000 signatures, only 51,543 were considered valid by Secretary of State Matt Dunlap.

There are various reasons why nearly half of the signatures were disqualified. But the issue really boiled down to just one signature. More than 17,000 endorsements were dismissed because the signature of one notary - Stavros Mendros - didn't match the signature that the state had on file.

Notaries have to sign on as witnesses in order to verify that the other names on the signatures are legit. If Mendros' penmanship hadn't been disputed, voters in the Pine Tree State were set to decide the fate of marijuana in November.

But CRMLA launched an appeal in court, calling the secretary of state's reasoning "unconstitutionally vague." Their attorney, Scott Anderson, also suggested that the secretary of state "believes that he has unlimited authority to make this determination himself."

"That cannot be the law," he told Maine Superior Justice Michaela Murphy in March, and Justice Murphy agreed. On Apr. 8, she overruled the state's decision because she found that the secretary of state used an "incorrect and improper standard" to adjudicate signatures.

"It involves standing in streets, shopping malls, public places and town halls, in both foul and fair weather, and asking for the voters' support," said Justice Murphy. "Notaries are often asked to administer an oath in the midst of these less than ideal circumstances. The court finds that requiring a notary to perfectly reproduce his or her commission signature in light of these realities is unduly burdensome..."

CRMLA campaign manager David Boyer was thrilled with the decision, which gives his group the go-ahead to begin the next phase of the campaign. "We're excited and look forward to educating Mainers," Boyer told Reuters. "This is the easy part now."

But his group isn't out of the woods just yet. State legislators have three days to appeal the decision, and they are currently considering all of their options moving forward. "We are reviewing the impact of this decision and considering our options at this time," Secretary of State Dunlap noted in a written statement.

However, today is a huge win for Maine's legalization movement. And the campaign could begin preparing for Election Day as early as next week.

h/t Bangor Daily News, Portland Press Herald


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